Infant Attention to Intentional Action Predicts Preschool Theory of Mind

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Abstract

This research examines whether there are continuities between infant social attention and later theory of mind. Forty-five children were studied as infants and then again as 4-year-olds. Measures of infant social attention (decrement of attention during habituation to displays of intentional action) significantly predicted later theory of mind (false-belief understanding). Possibly, this longitudinal association could have been explained by more general developments in IQ, verbal competence, or executive function (rather than continuities in the realm of social cognition). However, the association remained significant and undiminished even when IQ, verbal competence, and executive function were controlled. The findings thus provide strong support for an important continuity in social cognition separable from continuities in more general information processing.

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